Mayflower Gulch Trail is one of the most iconic, stunning hikes in the Copper Mountain area of Colorado. If mining ruins (from the Boston Mine) and abandoned ghost town cabins from the late 1800’s are your vibe, you’ll fall head over heels for this trail.
We do this hike multiple times a year (and during every season), and it never ceases to amaze. Let’s just say Mayflower Gulch Trail is one of those hikes that gives you a ton of bang for your buck, in terms of mountain views.
The trail is also open year-round and is frequented by cross country skiers and hikers in the winter and wildflower enthusiasts in the summer. And it’s centrally located near a ton of other epic hikes and mountain passes (more on that later!).
As Colorado locals who have hiked Mayflower Gulch year-round, we’re sharing all the info you need to know to plan your adventure. We’ll discuss weather, best seasons, nearby lodging, trail difficulty, how to avoid crowds, and lots more. Consider us your guides to all things Mayflower Gulch Trail.
Disclosure: We’ve included lodging and gear recommendations in this guide to Mayflower Gulch Trail in Colorado. If you choose to book or buy through our links, we may earn a commission, at no cost to you. Shopping through these links helps support our small Colorado business. All recommendations are crafted with love and expertise, from platforms we use and trust for our own adventures.
Must-Know Hiking Trail Info
To get to the abandoned cabins that are so iconic to Mayflower Gulch Trail, you actually only need to hike about 1.6 miles in from the trailhead. And in the summertime, if you have a 4×4 vehicle you can even drive up (although there really isn’t a good area to park, and you’ll have to navigate past hikers, so we typically advise against this).
If the cabins are what you’re coming for when hiking Mayflower Gulch Trail, you’re really only looking at 3.2 miles round trip. However, there are 6.1 miles of trail you can hike, which can take you past the mining ruins and up to some epic viewpoints.
Directions to the Trailhead
Mayflower Gulch Trail is located between the towns of Copper Mountain and Leadville, Colorado, along Fremont Pass (CO 91).
If you’re driving to the trailhead from i70, you’ll take exit 195 for Copper Mountain and head south on CO 91.
Follow CO 91 for about 6 miles, and the parking lot for the Mayflower Gulch Trail will be on the lefthand side of the road. It’s easy to miss, so here are the coordinates: 39.430230, -106.165281.
If you’re traveling north on CO 91 from Leadville, the parking lot will be on the righthand side of the road, a little over a mile after you’ve passed Clinton Gulch.
It’s worth noting, parking at the trailhead can be a bit crazy and fills up quickly. We highly recommend planning your hike up Mayflower Gulch Trail for a weekday (and ideally at sunrise, for the most predictable weather and gorgeous morning light).
Another thing to note: if you plan on hiking Mayflower Gulch Trail outside of the summer season, winter weather conditions are always possible. Before making your trek, check the conditions on Fremont Pass (this site has webcam footage that gives you an idea of road conditions).
Also, if you’re traveling on i70 any time between Sept. 1 and May 31, Colorado’s chain laws are in effect and may impact you. Having tire chains on you is never a bad idea (and may be required for your vehicle), especially on these high elevation mountain passes.
Leave No Trace Note: When hiking at Mayflower Gulch, please stay on the trail at all times. Hiking on muddy off-trail terrain can cause erosion and can trample and destroy the local wildflowers.
When it comes to Mayflower Gulch Trail, we’d rate this hike as moderate. The challenge is really due to the altitude.
The hike starts at around 11,000 ft and gains about 1,500 ft. If you don’t live at altitude, or aren’t used to hiking at high elevations, the Mayflower Gulch Trail hike can certainly be more challenging.
We’ll discuss trail conditions a bit more later, but the trail itself is nicely maintained and is a pretty steady incline, for the most part. No steep or scary drop-offs or scrambling to get to the ghost town cabins, making it a family friendly trail (as long as you’re acclimated to the elevation!).
Mayflower Gulch Trail is only one of Colorado’s many epic hiking routes. To really see what our great state has to offer, we highly recommend traveling the state by road. To get you started, we’ve crafted the ultimate road trip itinerary through the Rockies.
Our two favorite seasons to hike Mayflower Gulch Trail are the summer and winter. Generally speaking, we recommend avoiding late Spring (this is basically our “monsoon season” and trails are also very muddy from snowmelt) and late Fall (the terrain is quite dry and dead, but winter hasn’t really hit quite yet).
In the wintertime, Mayflower Gulch Trail is a true stunner. It’s an absolute winter wonderland. Plus, when it comes to winter hiking, it’s a pretty manageable route (and typically the trail is less busy in winter, when compared to summer).
That said, whenever we do this hike in the wintertime, we always bring our MICROspikes. They’re a must-have if you don’t want to be slipping and sliding on ice.
And if there’s fresh snow, you’ll likely want to bring snowshoes. At Mayflower Gulch Trail’s high elevation, heavy snow is a very real thing, so you want to come prepared.
If you’re a sucker for Colorado’s wildflowers and wide expanses of greenery, we highly recommend Mayflower Gulch in the summer months. The ideal month for wildflowers at this elevation is July (aim for mid-July if you can).
If you’re seeking fall colors, Mayflower Gulch Trail isn’t really the spot. Yes, from the cabins you can look down on the aspens that run along Fremont Pass, but the hike itself doesn’t really have any. So when it comes to epic views, this trail is really best in winter and summer.
Getting the most out of your Mayflower Gulch Trail hike is highly dependent on the seasons and Colorado weather. Our guide to the best seasons in CO covers the essentials you need to know.
The MICROspikes are essential on days when the trail is more packed down and icy. Snowshoes are ideal with fresh, deep powder, as they help distribute your weight so you don’t sink in to the snow.
It’s worth noting that if you plan on hiking past the cabins snowshoes are pretty much essential in the winter. Most people don’t travel past the cabins during the snowy months, so the trail isn’t packed down enough for MICROspikes.
Speaking of winter weather conditions in the shoulder months, we’re big fans of keeping a winter emergency kit handy (yes, even in spring and fall, as this area can get lots of snow then too!). You’ll want items like camping and hiking-friendly lightweight emergency blankets with you just in case you get stranded.
Our other Mayflower Gulch Trail hiking essential is sunscreen (yes, even in winter!). At these high elevations, it’s a lot easier to burn in the sun. And while the first mile or so of the Mayflower Gulch Trail is below the tree line, the area where the cabins and mining ruins are is open and exposed. And it only takes a very short period of time to get sunburned out here.
We’ve tested all kinds of sunscreen on our adventures, and the only sunscreen we choose to wear in the mountains is this brand, as it’s the only one that has avoided horrible sunburns at elevation. We use this one on our faces (since it has no white, cakey residue) and this one on our bodies, since it’s sweat-resistant.
And while this may seem obvious, it’s an easy one to forget: when hiking Mayflower Gulch Trail, don’t forget to bring a solid water bottle. Unfortunately, it’s much easier to get dehydrated at elevation. And if you don’t stay properly hydrated, you can end up with a nasty elevation headache. Trust us, it’s no fun.
Another essential for your Mayflower Gulch Trail hike is headlamps. We chat about this more later in this guide, but to avoid crowds, we highly recommend starting this hike before sunrise, making a solid headlamp a must-have (these are the ones we’ve used for years, and we love them).
And the last essential for your Mayflower Gulch Trail? Bring along a furry friend. If your pup loves hikes, this is a great one (our girl adores this hike). The trail is nice and wide, making it easy to distance yourself from other hikers if you have a more anxious pup. Just remember, if you’re hiking in the winter, paw protection for your pup is a must.
To say Colorado has some of the most epic mountain passes in the country would be an understatement. And just an hour’s drive from Mayflower Gulch Trail is one of our favorites: Independence Pass.
The closest town to Mayflower Gulch Trail is Copper Mountain on the north end (a little less than a 10 minute drive from the trailhead) and Leadville on the south end (about a 20 minute drive from the trailhead).
Personally, we love Leadville, and it’s the town we highly recommend staying in for anyone hiking Mayflower Gulch Trail while also wanting to see more of the state. It’s not too far from Aspen or Buena Vista, so there are plenty of other mountain adventures in the area. Plus, it’s the highest elevation incorporated city in all of North America (and a beyond-charming little town).
For lodging in Leadville, these are the spots we’d recommend:
For lodging in Copper Mountain, here’s what we’d recommend.
You can also stay in nearby Frisco, which is right off i70, a few exits east of Copper. You’ll find a lot more hotel options there.
We’ve visited Rocky Mountain NP more times than we can count (it’s basically out backyard, after all!). We’ve compiled a guide to the must-see sights in the park, ideal for those who have never visited.
The route up to the ghost town cabins on Mayflower Gulch Trail is an extra wide path, perfect for group hiking. That’s because technically, this portion of the hike is actually a 4×4 road.
The hike itself is a steady and consistent incline. While you gain around 1,500 ft during the entire hike, it’s relatively gradual (although it is pretty much a constant uphill trek).
The trail to the cabins follows a path through a spruce tree forest, but once you arrive at the cabin ruins, you’re above the trees and have wide, expansive 360 degree views of the mountains.
As you can see in the photo of Mayflower Gulch Trail above, the trail can get pretty snowy in the off-season. The section of hiking trail amongst the trees tends to be pretty packed down, making MICROspikes essential to avoid sliding around on icy areas and comfortably making it up the incline.
We’ve tested hiking this trail without MICROspikes and just with snow boots in the wintertime, and we can confirm that is not the way to go.
The trail does get less wide once you get past the cabins (as technically, you can’t drive past this point on Mayflower Gulch Trail). And if you venture further in the colder months, like we mentioned earlier, snowshoes are basically a must-have, as there tends to be deep powder that isn’t packed down (as most people don’t hike this part of the trail in the winter).
All of this said, as a frequently visited trail, Mayflower Gulch Trail is pretty well maintained, making it a solid Colorado hiking option for solo hikers and families alike to adventure on (assuming you’re acclimated to the elevation). There are just some additional gear items you need if you plan on hiking Mayflower in the shoulder season.
Yes, you technically can drive up Mayflower Gulch Trail in the summer months, up until the area near the abandoned cabins. The trail up to this point is actually a 4×4 road, but we wouldn’t recommend it unless you have a 4WD high clearance vehicle. It’s quite the bumpy, single lane ride, and there aren’t really any areas to turn around if you get stuck.
Another thing to note: there isn’t really a good area to park if you choose to drive up the Mayflower Gulch Trail. And you’re likely to come across hikers and their pups, which can be a challenge to navigate around.
Personally, we don’t recommend driving the route if you can avoid it.
We love a good mountain pass, and Colorado knows how to deliver. Cottonwood is quite possibly our favorite in the whole state, and we’re sharing all the details.
We mentioned it earlier, but it bears repeating: Mayflower Gulch Trail is one of Colorado’s busier hikes, particularly in the summertime. The parking lot at the trailhead can completely fill up by the early morning (and it’s a decent sized lot too).
In order to avoid the crowds, we recommend planning your hike of Mayflower Gulch Trail for a weekday. And if you can aim to arrive at the trailhead before sunrise, even better. There’s nothing better than watching the sun come up from the abandoned cabins.
Sunset works too, but if you’re hiking in the summertime, just be aware of high elevation afternoon thunderstorms, as they are common (and can be extremely dangerous) during this season.
Another good way to reduce your chances of happening upon crowds on Mayflower Gulch Trail is to hike it outside of the summer months, which tend to be the busiest.
Sheena and Ed here! We’re Colorado-based hikers, outdoors advocates, and adventure photographers. And there’s nothing we love more than crafting comprehensive guides on our favorite places in the Rockies.
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